I got a good deal on a watch the other day, a Seiko. The watch shop was going out of business. I like Seiko, I read somewhere that they’re the only watch manufacturer that makes every component of the watch themselves.

I also have a Rolex. I paid almost $1,000 for a timepiece that’s reliably inaccurate, must be wound daily, and has to be laboriously scrolled through each 24 hours to reset the date. Yep, I bought the cheapest Rolex in the store. Nevertheless, it fulfilled an ambition I’d held since my teens. The Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels wore a Rolex Oyster.

Kids don’t seem to wear watches these days and likely couldn’t imagine shelling out a grand for one (that’s two fucking iPads ferchrissake). Earth’s diurnal course is now perpetually and reliably demarcated for them on big screens, little screens, in-between screens, TV screens, the cooker, the microwave, the PVR, the car dashboard and on billboards and buildings. Which means that the knobs at Seiko and Rolex are hopefully thinking long and hard about that really big, really simple, really difficult question posed back in the early 1960s by the godfather of marketing, Theodore Levitt: “What business are we actually in?”

The time business? The tiny fiddly parts business? The calibration business? The jewelery business? The things-that-go-on-your-wrist business? The fashion business? The things that go tick business? The heirloom business?

Companies that understand marketing are those that continuously devote sufficient intellect and creativity to understanding what it is they really sell to their customers, beyond the constraints of their current product line and the next quarter’s analysts’ call.

Instead of trying to engage, get in a relationship, share an experience, converse, or otherwise generally wank about with their customers they expend intellectual capital figuring out what actual value they and their factory (or their man in China) have to offer them (and still make a profit)?

Because then things like capital investment priorities, the (dread) mission-vision-values twaddle if you must, channel strategies, new product development, ads, media and PR strategies, even the sodding social media strategy tend to fall into place.

That’s marketing. Not dead, not moribund, not even wounded. Just misunderstood.

Nike likely wouldn’t have been interested had Rolex suggested teaming up on their runner-y, gadget-y thingummyjigs. But if they had been they might have created future heirlooms for aged millennials to bequeath to their millennialets.